Ephraim Silver was in a small dark room with one of the brothers, a minor artifex. The thin-faced man was in charge of recording the interrogation about to take place in the next broom. In there, Hilda Ashman was sitting on a padded bench, her knees drawn up.
Brother Loomis had asked him to be here, had wanted him to see what the Domus Durum was up against.
All Silver could see was a small, almost childlike woman, with a mass of curly red hair pulled into a braid that ran down her back. Her eyes were lowered, but the day before in the depot her angry eyes had pierced through him. And her voice had been firm.
She reminded him very much of his mother back on Pil. You would look at her and think her as frail as a flower. But try and break a rule – sneak out at night, hide a bad grade, drink beer at fourteen – and she became steel. Silver figured his mother was match for any brother, except Loomis, of course.
But right now, this Hilda Ashman looked very afraid and vulnerable. Silver found himself gripping the arms of his chair as her cell door opened and Loomis entered. She startled, then stretched out her legs and stood up.
The minor artifex turned up the volume.
“We have much to discuss, my child,” said the Grand Regimen. His voice was soft.
The woman was silent.
“I know who you really are, Hilda Ashman. You think the principles you have learned are truth. But they are lies. You think your mission is beneficial. But it is dangerous to all decent people.”
“Please,” said Hilda, “I have no idea what you are talking about. My principles are pretty run of the mill and I’m not on any mission.”
“Don’t play your games with me, woman,” barked Loomis suddenly. “You’re a Weaver and I know it.”
“Look, there must be another person named Hilda Ashman that you want. I don’t even know what a Weaver is.”
Silver began to feel uncomfortable. This tiny woman with her arms wrapped tightly around herself was obviously distressed. And unless she was an incredible actress, she was clueless about the Weavers. Silver had only a vague knowledge of them garnered from conversations with some of the younger, more talkative brothers.
The Weavers were a group of women who were, for lack of a better word, witches. They supposedly had magical powers, but this seemed ridiculous to Silver. Whatever they were, Brother Loomis hated them.
“You grandmother was a sorceress of the highest level. She was a treacherous viper.”
“My grandmother is a fragile, old woman who would never hurt any living creature.”
“Was,” said the old man.
“Was? What do you mean?” As realization dawned, a look of horror emerged on Hilda Ashman’s face.
“Yes, Beatrix Bluestar is dead.” He spat out each word.
“No, no, no.” Hilda sank back onto the bench. The resolution on the screen wasn’t very good, but Silver was sure tears were streaming down her face.
Brother Loomis had said she would not be harmed. Silver thought that technically this was not being harmed, but it was cruel. The Grand Regimen looked directly into the camera and made a motion lowering his hand. The minor artifex turned the volume down so there was silence.
“Why are you doing that?”
“I imagine that Brother Loomis is trying to extract sensitive information from the witch that we don’t need to know. “
Silver was trying to remember the artifex’s name. Ximen? He mulled over this but then movement on the screen caught his eye.
Brother Loomis had come closer to the woman. He looked enraged and kept pointing at her. Her face was blank. He clearly wasn’t evulsing any information from her. Silver was relieved this wasn’t like some interrogations he’d heard about. Some whispered that there were instruments, pain-giving instruments, that made extraction swift but terrible. He’d never seen any of these things but assumed they were real.
After all hadn’t he been given the devise in his glove that was supposed to make his apprehension of the woman easy? It had been. Or maybe it had been because she was a small, weak woman and he was thug towering over her?
Then something happened that shocked him and Brother Ximen.
Brother Loomis was very close to Hilda Ashman, his hands tensed as if to grab at her. But she was no longer cowering. She stood erect, glaring at him. She cast a fierce look at the camera and began to speak.
Silver could not read lips, but she seemed to be repeating the same word over and over again. Her face was transformed and focused like the brothers chanting their devotions. She placed her palms together. Now Brother Loomis was the one who looked scared. He took a step back.
She faced her palms toward him and moved her hands forward as if she were pushing him away. She never actually touched him. Nevertheless, the old man went flying across the room, hitting the back wall and sliding down to the floor.
Hilda Ashman stood there hands on hips. She was still as pandemonium broke loose around her. Several burly brothers burst into the room. Silver ran there too.